In antibodies from llamas, scientists see COVID hope
Initial tests with the new antibody and cultured cells indicated the antibody blocks viruses with this spike protein from infecting cells.
- In a llama named Winter, researchers have found an unlikely ally in the hunt for an effective treatment for COVID-19, the University of Texas at Austin said in a statement.
- The researchers linked two copies of a special kind of antibody produced by llamas and created a new antibody, which binds tightly to a key protein on the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2.
- This protein is the spike protein, shaped like a corona (crown) that gives coronaviruses their name. It is also the protein that allows the virus to break into human and animal cells.
- Initial tests with the new antibody and cultured cells indicated the antibody blocks viruses with this spike protein from infecting cells.
- The researchers are from the University of Texas at Austin, US National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium.
- They have reported their findings in the May 5 issue of the journal Cell. The paper is online as a “pre-proof” — meaning it is peer-reviewed but undergoing final proofreading.
- The team is now preparing to conduct preclinical studies in animals such as hamsters or nonhuman primates, with the hopes of next testing in humans.
- The goal is to develop a treatment that would help people soon after infection with the virus.